Jacob Johnson
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Jacob Johnson

Band Blues Acoustic


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"Jacob Johnson Finds Life On The Road Better Than College"

You can call him Jacob Johnson, a wiry 21-yr-old with glasses and messy hair. His story is not unlike many other aspiring young artists – a lackadaisical college drop out who wanted mre than a degree and a cushy desk job. He instead chose to be a roaming musician, a life less certain but more fulfilling. Johnson’s travels brought him to Cheraw last Saturday.

RawTown Coffee is Cheraw’s only coffee shop and a gem of the city. With it’s Afro-Asian, industrial, post-modern decorum, RawTown is as unique as Johnson.

“I love playing places like this for people like this, because that’s the way it started,” said Johnson.

Influenced by Willie Nelson and Jack Kerouac, Johnson sounds like Norman Rockwell paintings and the open road. He is a virtuoso, expressing a working comprehension of dozens of techniques and styles. He has blended and blurred the lines of genres to craft a sound he calls, neo-acoustic folk/funk.

Johnson stood on the stage in front of the shop windows with downtown Cheraw as his backdrop. He jumped into “8 o’clock Jive,” an instrumental from his album, Est. 1986. He tapped his fingers across the guitar as if playing a piano. He gave the audience a taste of his talent, allowing us a greater glimpse with his tune, “Try.”

His quirky style is charming, and his songs have strong narratives. A maestro of the male confessional, “Try,” is not an average teen break-up song. The song builds with each verse. Johnson is telling a story with his guitar, allowing the strings to help him recant the tale. He layers his sound with a loop machine. Tapping his barefoot on one of the pedals he soloed against himself. The song became more chaotic as Johnson added level after level, conveying the frustrations of a boy in love with a girl unwilling to change.

“I don’t want to get in the mindset of, ‘Well, it’s time for me to solo, so I’ll just play a bunch of notes really fast.’ I want to be thoughtful about it. I don’t want it just to be a flurry of fast impressive notes. I want it to have a beginning, middle and end – rising action and falling action,” Johnson said.

What makes Johnson more incredible is that he’s so humble. He’s one of the greatest musicians you’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing, and he knows that, but he’s just not a jerk about it.

Johnson’s not a snob, and his set shows his openness to all forms of music and self expression. He kicked off a series of cover songs with an interpretation of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” He followed it up with tracks from Blues Traveler, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Britney Spears.

Johnson jumped into the audience and pulled a girl onto the stage, serenading her to “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” The crowd laughed uproariously as people pulled out cell phones and cameras to capture the moment.

Afterwards he reminded everyone about the tip jar at the corner of the stage.

“Remember every cent that you put into that jar goes to the help-Jacob-stay-out-of-college fund,” he said, bringing chuckles from the crowd again.

Then he turned the page, taking us into another original, “Treat Her Right.” An ode to his guitar, Johnson pulled out all the stops. He has developed an unearthly connection with his instrument. He played effortlessly, dizzying the crowd as he worked his fingers into a frenzy, dancing around the strings and frets, wooing us with his offbeat charisma.

His songwriting is as masterful as his guitar playing.

“I’ve been playing the guitar ever since I realized I have no athletic ability – that was about 10 years ago.” said Johnson.

His music is fluid and smart, littered with literary references and clever turns of phrase. He writes and signs in a free verse/stream of consciousness style made famous by beatnik poets and mid-century authors such as Allen Ginsberg. This is best reflected in his song,”Me and Jack Kerouac.”

“Jack Kerouac just seemed like the perfect character, the quintessential beat poet. Really the song is about independent art and grassroots expression. It’s about just kind of doing you thing, because you enjoy it and because you have to do it and not necessarily because you think it’s going to make you a bunch of money and make you famous,” said Johnson.

He played his guitar in prose, pausing for a moment to beat-box. Using his guitar as a microphone, he amplified the BOOM, POP, POW and CLACK of his vocals. He looped the sound and started to play, layering it with more strumming. The song grew louder and more powerful with each solo he looped, building to an explosion of good feeling.

After the blaze cleared, Johnson mocked taking a drag from a cigarette. Around the room smiles had been scorched onto everyone’s face. His set came to an end, closing yet another small chapter in the book of his life. He invited everyone in the coffee shop to come up and talk with him, a decent prologue for his long drive back home.

He’s comfortable living from one show to the next, and as long as his talents can support him, he plans to continue making music.

“I would love to keep doing this and just be able to grow bigger crowds and make enough money to one day get married and have kids or something like that, but I’d really like to stay in the same kind of position so I could have the same control over my music,” said Johnson.

He loves being an independent artist an views music as a lifestyle choice. Johnson encourages people to go out and see shows in their community and experience new music.

“I think it’s important to support local music. We do actually have a choice of what we listen to and what we put into our bodies whether its food or music or entertainment, and it doesn’t have to be what Joe-executive at MTV thinks everybody’s going to like,” Johnson said.

“Everybody on the planet is as different as every artist on the planet. Everyone’s going to have different taste, or the should anyway. But the thing is you have to go out and develop it. It’s important to listen and support and encourage people to keep doing it.”

You can call him Jacob Johnson, and he represents some of the best that South Carolina’s independent music scene has to offer.

—Donald E Quist searches near – and sometimes far– for what’s happening in the local entertainment scene. Contact him as kanduckie26@yahoo.com - The Florence Morning News

"A New Breed of Folkie"

With its monthly First Friday concerts, one of the Savannah Folk Music Society's stated objectives is to introduce younger talents - those who don't feel particularly bound by the old rules of traditional folk music performance, and do things a little differently - to the folkie crowd here in town.

Of course, the group's president Hank Weisman often books "traditional" performers, too - the beauty of the First Friday concert is that it's different every single time.

The March edition certainly belongs in the "contemporary" category, as Jacob Johnson, an acoustic guitarist and singer from South Carolina, headlines.

Johnson calls his music "neo-acoustic folk/funk." But don't let that scare you. It means he has a distinctive, rhythmic style of playing - he's no run-of-the-mill strummer - and is partial to unusual tunings.

In fact, his admitted hero is the late, great Michael Hedges, and if you're familiar with Hedges' polydextrous playing style, you already have a handle on Jacob Johnson (he also admits a fondness for the Flecktones' innovative bassist Victor Wooten, and for acoustic guitar innovators Willy Porter and Monte Montgomery.

Johnson, who's just 22 years old, plays sprawling, bluesy ballads, pop songs, talking blues and quick-time, pinball-funky narratives. He's part of a new breed of "folk musicians" who make their own rules. And he's funny, too.

Also on Friday's bill is the Savannah Cieli Band, a sextet of musicians playing traditional Irish tunes (hey, it's March 6, close enough to St. Patrick's Day!)

A link to this article can be found at http://savannahnow.com/node/683175 - The Savannah Morning News

"Jacob Johnson - Creativity and Energy"

I’m not sure how it’s taken me this long to get inside the Port City Music Hall, but I finally made it last night. Jacob Johnson was the reason I went.

I first saw Jacob perform at the North East Folk Alliance in New York last November. What impressed me most then was his guitar work: his fingers fade into a blur as he races across the fretboard, laying out a full sound all on his own, and hitting every note dead on.

Last night I saw another side of Jake that I hadn’t seen at NERFA. His very innovative in his approach to the guitar. Lot’s of right-hand work on the fretboard, harmonics, and flexing the neck for special effects. He used a looping box to lay down grooves, and then played amazing lead over them. That’s not so unique these days, but I don’t remember seeing anyone singing scat through his guitar’s sound hole, into the pickup microphone, to make that part of the loop. Pretty cool.

Jacob and I had a chance to talk at the Port City Music Hall lounge before he mounted the unique stage up behind the bar. The conversation ranged wildly between Willie Nelson’s hat, Harry Anderson’s talent, and David Copperfield’s magic. They were all influences on his performance style and approach to his art.

He hails from South Carolina, but in the last few years has traveled extensively as he has taken up the life of a touring musician. He seems to be having a pretty good time!

Johnson’s songs are about forgetting old girlfriends, growing up, and Jack Karouac. He has a unique lyrical style that crams lots of words in between the frantic lead work on the fretboard; it works very well. On stage, as he surrenders to the passion that drives his guitar playing, his energy and motion was that of a rocker from the old Muppet TV show. Very entertaining and inspiring.

Jacob comes back to Maine regularly – he has played The Dogfish Bar and Grille and The North Star Music Cafe in the past. Keep an eye out for this guy, he is not to be missed!

Incidentally, I enjoyed my first visit to the Port City Music Hall. I didn’t get a good look at the big room in the venue, but it’s a very classy place, with great service. I need to get back in there for a show. I’m sure I’m the last one in town to have that experience! - Maine Music Blog

"Guitar Stars"

...Splitting the bill with Miraglia in Rockville next Wednesday will be Jacob Johnson. At 23, the acoustic guitar phenom has taken a different path. He started fiddling with chords when he was 12. By 16, he was leaving his Greenville, S.C., home to play in bars around the Southeast with the blues-rock outfit Alternative Solution. Although Johnson enrolled at North Greenville University, he didn't stick around for long.

"God didn't give me the gift of music so I could sit in a classroom," he says. "When you go to a Christian school where your dad's a dean, that can be misunderstood. But it just wasn't working out. I thought I could go to school when I'm 60, but I might not be able to write a song in three years."

Johnson doesn't just strum and sing about love; he's all over the place. Influenced by technical masters like Pat Metheny and fellow southerner Kaki King, he developed an approach that requires tight coordination of both hands as he slaps and taps the neck of his instrument.

"It just seems so expressive and organic," he says of the virtuoso style. "If you were alone on a desert island with an acoustic guitar, you could do this stuff."

A couple of years ago, Johnson bought a mid-level Alvarez at a pawnshop. He'd played better guitars, but the purchase left him plenty of money to soup it up with microphones and a bridge plate pick up. The accessories help shape a more natural tone and allow Johnson to amplify every inch of his guitar.

"When you're gigging and you're traveling a lot, it just doesn't make sense to carry a $3,000 dollar guitar," he explains. "It's not something that's irreplaceable. I would miss it, but I could find another instrument."

Gray Lee, one of Johnson's close friends and biggest fans, is also a Greenville-based singer/songwriter. The two met 10 years ago at a magic club.

"There were these little kids doing card tricks," Gray remembers. "I did one I thought was pretty good for Jacob, and he said, ‘Yeah, I used to do that one.' We still laugh at how we used to be magicians together."

He believes Johnson is on the right path because of the growing virtuoso movement.

"There's really no one who plays like him," says Gray, 29. "He's completely original. He builds one thing on top of another. A lot of people do fancy finger work and it doesn't mean anything. When Jacob plays, people just eat it up."

The industry is starting to eat it up, too. Johnson has already shared the stage with pedal steel master Robert Randolph and opened for Dave Matthews collaborator Tim Reynolds twice. Johnson also sings. Well, sort of. Partly in tribute to the Beat Generation, Johnson speaks many of his lyrics. He has even written a song about hanging out with Jack Kerouac in New York City.

"When I started doing solo work and playing by myself, I had really never sung before," he explains. "It was kind of a way to perform the stuff I was writing, but not really have to sing."

The spoken word gives Johnson license to play to the crowd. At times, his shows border on stand-up comedy. One of his songs, "Treat Her Right," is a seductive ode to his guitar, not a woman.

"Poets can by very serious, and yet they're not afraid to be funny," he says. "They'll use humor to make their point. That's kind of my personality. If I'm going to be true to myself, I have to have something in there to make it Jacob."

Danielle Miraglia and Jacob Johnson will perform at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24, at Vic's Music Corner at Branded '72, 387 East Gude Drive, Rockville. The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door, $12 for Focus members or in advance. Call 301-275-7459 or visit - The Gazette (Rockville, MD)

"Artist Review: Jacob Johnson"

Jacob Johnson is a South Carolina native and a folk singer who brings a little more to the stage than just simple folksy type music. There’s poetry in his songs, and not the kind that make you think of hearts and flowers or even the sorrows of life. No his poetry is more about reality and it is tinged, ok maybe its more than tinged, with humor. Just listen to his take on the little teapot song we’ve all sung as children. He’s updated it a bit, but its retained its integrity as well as becoming a reason to smile or chuckle or both.

His debut offering called Est. 1986 is a combination of quirky ballads to some very Dylan-esque folk tunes, Jacob shows you that music that sounds good doesn’t always have to be serious. This is the man that wrote a very romantic love song to his guitar! If you don’t believe me, listen to Treat Her Right, and after listening to the album, its safe to say Jacob treats his guitar right. He’s got a very distinct way of playing that puts his playing in the spotlight, and if you can tear yourself away from the lyrics a minute you’ll be suitably impressed, but because he’s doing anything groundbreaking, its that what he does, he does well. He likes to call his style of playing “Neo-acoustic folk/funk” and if I knew what that was, I might agree with him. I’ll just say that his playing is unique.

Jacob is that awesome performer you’d expect to hear at a bookstore on a Friday night or a small coffee shop, with a crowd of loyal hanger’s on that grows with each appearance. The music has an intimacy to it that makes you feel like he’s right there in the room with you as you listen.

The album Est. 1986 is a mood lifter, even the songs that are about downer type situations leave you smiling, maybe that’s why he’s shared the stage with the likes of Tim Reynolds and Brian Vander Ark of The Verve Pipe. These artists know something we’re just finding out; the Jacob is a great performer who has a way with words that will cause even the most curmudgeonly person to grin. The world needs more talent like this, when pop music is dominated by sounds that all seem to blend together and the songs lack anything to redeem them to the listen, Jacob is a refreshing listen. - Mossip Music Blog


"EST 1986" Released Oct. 2007



"Johnson sounds like Norman Rockwell paintings and the open road. He is a virtuoso, expressing a working comprehension of dozens of techniques and styles. He has blended and blurred the lines of genres to craft a sound he calls 'Neo-Acoustic Folk/Funk' ." -The Florence Morning News

Hailing from South Carolina, Jacob Johnson is a one-of-a-kind solo acoustic performance artist who
specializes in a style of guitar playing he calls "Neo-acoustic folk/funk." In live performances, his off-the-cuff sense of humor and tongue-in-cheek
sensibility disarm the audience and leave them completely unprepared for the multi-layered
guitar masterworks he unleashes. Jacob thumps, taps, and slaps his acoustic guitar into submission, weaving a musical tapestry that usually climbs
to sonic frenzy whilst never losing its balance or control. His lyrics, thoughtful and
realistic, are delivered with the wry sort of charisma that makes you wonder if
he isn’t just making it all up as he goes.

And sometimes he is.

***2009 Nerfa Tri-Centric Showcase Artist*****

Jacob has shared the stage with:
Robert Randolph
Dave Matthews collaborator Tim Reynolds
Zac Brown Band
Brian Vander Ark (of The Verve Pipe)
David Lamotte
Jack Williams
Angie Aparo
Nationally reknown fiddle virtuoso Jeremy Kittel
Red Molly
Mark Eshenbaugh (Eshenbaugh Guitars)
Jeremy Wallace

Some Notable Venues:
Caffe Lena's - NY
The Purple Onion - NC
The Fiddle and Bow - NC
Eddie's Attic - GA
Tupelo Music Hall - NH
North Star Music Cafe - Me
The Minstrel - NJ
The Third Fret Coffeehouse - Ma.
Nerfa - NY
First Friday For Folk - Ga.

Booking and Management
Trespass Music
P.O. Box 591
Buzzards Bay Ma. 02532

Tracey D.

Marketing & PR
Betsy Boland